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Several Christian Lawyers join All Pakistan Minorities Alliance

By Sheraz Khurram Khan

8/25/07 PAKISTAN (ANS) – Pledging their support to the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) several Christian lawyers have joined the alliance’s Lawyers’ Wing to provide free legal assistance to the minority people of the country.

The APMA held a press conference at Lahore Press club on Thursday, August 23, which was attended by a number of Christian lawyers.

The minority lawyers who attended the press conference included Roohama Ayub, Dr. Raja Nathaniel Gill, Amir Jacob, Saleem Hasan, Haroon Suleman, Niaz Amar, Rena Gulsher, Ijaz Farhat, Albert Akhtar Bhatty, Ashar Hameed Gill, Suba Masih Saroya, Eric Sandhu, Rai Naveed Zafar, Shazia Gulzar, Saqib, Pervaiz Shaukat Bhatti and Aslam Pervaiz Chaudhry.

Addressing the press conference the APMA’s Lawyers’ Wing Coordinator, Chaudhry Azra Shujaat welcomed the Christian lawyers into the APMA lawyers’ wing. He said the APMA was setting up free legal aid cells in every district of Pakistan to provide legal assistance to the victims of religious discrimination and to those whose “human rights have been abused.”

APMA lawyers’ teams, he said, had been formed to help achieve the said goal. He told journalists that APMA will challenge “discriminatory” and “unjust” laws in country’s superior courts.

“A team of renowned Christian lawyers has been formed to translate this into reality,” he added.

Lauding the addition of Christian lawyers into APMA Lawyers’ Wing, the alliance’s Chief Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti said that the enhanced number of lawyers would help the APMA to reach out to people in need of legal assistance. APMA Lawyers, he said will interact with Bar Councils and would also apprise the judiciary of the problems facing minorities’ communities in Pakistan .

“Our persecuted brothers and sisters will get relief through efforts of APMA lawyers’ fight,” he stated.

Bhatti called for appointment of minority lawyers as judges in lower, High court and Supreme Court of Pakistan. He alleged that discriminatory attitude was barring minority lawyers from assuming the offices of judges.

“The overwhelming response by the Christian lawyers to APMA’s invitation is a clear indication that minorities have become united on one platform,” he said.

He expressed his deep concern over growing incidence of forced conversion of minority women to Islam. He said in several cases minority women have been converted to Islam after being subjected to torture and rape. The culprits then forcibly marry them to mask their offense, he alleged.

Condemning women harassment and torture, he said they (APMA) would raise the issue of infringement on women rights at international level. He urged Christian international organizations, churches and Christian rights groups to raise an even stronger voice for the persecuted believers in Pakistan .

He called on International Christian Rights Groups to take up the matter of minorities’ human rights violation with Pakistan government. Shahbaz was also critical of the misuse of blasphemy laws.

He said Pakistani minorities would not tolerate persecution. “We will stop those hands that advance to harm minorities,” he said in a determined tone.

Shahbaz Bhatti added that the APMA was holding a Youth Conference next year. The alliance, he said, will set up a central counseling and guidance centre. The centre will give career counseling to the minority youth.